The struggle of being a sick woman
Updated: Jul 5
Being a sick woman comes with many challenges, but I’m going to talk about one challenge I’ve faced in particular and that is being believed that I am truly sick. I’m not saying that men never have this issue, but it is extremely prevalent in the female community. Almost every sick woman I know has had this problem and it’s something that needs to stop.
The amount of times that I have told a medical professional what was going on and was shrugged off is ridiculous. When I first got really sick, I was 14 years old. I was young and scared. I had doctors tell me it was stress and I just needed to go to therapy. I had doctors accuse me of having an eating disorder. I had doctors accuse me of just wanting attention. I would go to the ER for GI or heart issues and the first thing they would do is accuse me of being a drug seeker wanting narcotics even though I didn’t want any pain meds and am ALLERGIC TO NARCOTICS.
When I went to college and started going to the emergency room by myself, I started to experience medical professionals belittling my symptoms. I would faint a lot. I mean completely lose consciousness, get hurt when I hit the floor, have a 220 heart rate, and friends would call 911 type of fainting. I had been seeing a cardiologist for years, had full cardiac workups every 6 months, had documented heart arrhythmias, had an implanted loop recorder in my chest, and was very medicated for the diagnosis I had. When I would tell medical professionals that I fainted, they would say “you mean you got dizzy”. Like no, I FREAKING FAINTED! I had severe GI issues. I had tons of test results that supported my diagnosis and had been followed by a gastro for years. I used to go through times when I would throw up so many times a day for weeks at a time, my esophagus would bleed. Yet, when I would go to the ER for IV Zofran and fluids, the ER staff would refer to my vomiting as “mild nausea”. I don’t understand how throwing up till your esophagus bleeds is only mild nausea. When I would say I was in severe pain from whatever diagnosis was causing my pain, it was often shrugged off as “minor discomfort”. I have a connective tissue disease that causes my joints to dislocate very easily. I would go to the ER with a dislocated joint that I needed the doctor to put back in its socket, and when I would follow up with an orthopedist afterwards and tell him what happened, he would reply with “so you twisted your ankle or you strained your wrist?” even though I had just told him I had a dislocation and he had the doctors report and just didn’t read it.
When I was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease, a serious genetic disease, some doctors still accused me of exaggerating or would refer me to a psychiatrist. I had proof of my disease, tons of abnormal test results that are impossible to fake, and had seen world renowned doctors who confirmed what was going on, and still, I was just a hysterical woman. It had been proven hundreds of times that I was actually sick, and yet, some doctors would still look at me and not believe it.
I once had a doctor tell me to bring a man with me to my doctors’ appointments, not a woman. She said that doctors are more willing to believe what you are saying when there is a man next to you to confirm it. I think of what she said all the time and wonder why I am not believed as a woman? I honestly don’t have an answer to that question, but I feel like it has something to do with how society views woman overall. Woman have always been known as dramatic or hormonal and it changes how we are perceived as patients.
Not being believed that you are sick sucks so much. My life has been completely taken over by my disease. I have a long list of serious symptoms and take 29 pills a day that don’t work well enough to control them. I have to use a wheelchair and spend the majority of my time hooked up to an IV through a central line in my chest. I am always in pain and don’t even remember what if feels like to not be. I spend my days at therapies and doctors’ appointments. I have spent HUNDREDS of day admitted to the hospital. I’ve had many surgeries and procedures hoping for some relief. I had to deal with the fact that this will always be my life and that it will get worse. I had to accept the fact that I have a genetic disease that has no cure. I am desperate for help, and when a doctor dismisses me, it hurts so badly. Not only does it make me feel helpless but it’s an attack on my character that I don’t deserve. Sick woman need compassion from healthcare professionals, not to be accused of being hysterical. We don’t need a psych consult, we need to be taken seriously.